HOWEY-IN-THE-HILLS, Florida – Bud Beucher, president of the history-rich Mission Inn Resort & Club, has never been reluctant to host tournaments. Most all were high school, junior or college events.
It’s doubtful that any golf facility in the country can match the schedule of professional tour events and U.S. Golf Association qualifiers that Beucher has lined up for 2021. It all starts on March 1 when Canada’s Mackenzie Tour holds its four-day qualifying tournament on Mission’s El Campeon layout. The circuit canceled its 2020 season because of pandemic concerns.
Next up would be the biggest of the year’s events — the Symetra Tour’s $200,000 Mission Inn Resort & Club Championship on May 28-30. The Symetra, the developmental tour for the Ladies PGA, held a tournament at Mission Inn last October – an event organized late after a tournament in Georgia had to be canceled because of pandemic concerns.
The PGA’s Latinoamerica circuit will also conduct a qualifying session on El Campeon Nov. 1-5. The Mackenzie, Symetra and Latinoamerica events now have multiyear contracts with Mission Inn.
“We’ve had pro tournaments before, but not at this level,’’ said Beucher. The previous pro tournaments were men’s events many years back – a Nike Tour stop and a visit from the Grapefruit Tour in the 1960s or 1970s before construction of the hotel was completed.
In addition to this year’s three big competitions Mission Inn will also host three USGA qualifiers – a men’s local elimination for the U.S. Open on April 29, a U.S. Amateur preliminary on July 1-2 and a lead-in to the U.S. Mid-Amateur on Aug. 30.
“We’ve worked hard to build our presence in the upper end of the golf market, and it’s paying off,’’ said Michael Bowery, in his ninth year as the resort’s director of golf and a former roommate of Beucher’s at the University of Arizona.
All the tournaments and qualifiers will be held on El Campeon, the older of Mission’s two courses. It was built in 1917 and is one of the oldest – and best – layouts in Florida; The designer was a Chicago architect, George O’Neil.
El Campeon, which means “The Champion,’’ was declared the Florida Golf Course of the Year in 2009 by the National Golf Course Owners Association. Over the years it has also been known as the Howey Golf Club, Chain O’Lakes, Bougainvillea and Floridian. The course has 85 feet of elevation changes, which is quite a bit for a Florida layout, and water comes into play on 13 of the 18 holes.
Even though the pro events and USGA qualifiers are on the calendar, there’s no plans for Mission Inn to cut back on its amateur events. It’s been the site of 11 NCAA championship events and eight straight years of Florida high school championships.
Though El Campeon is by far the older of Mission’s courses, it remains the preferred layout. The newer course, Las Colinas (“The Hills’’), was designed by PGA Tour player turned TV commentator Gary Koch in 1992 and re-designed by Florida architect Ron Garl in 2007. It’s more user friendly than the challenging El Campeon, and Las Colinas was given a new look late in the 2019 season.
That’s when Beucher and superintendent Danny Parks created a course within the course — an executive layout dubbed El Dorado. Though the short course was created just by building new tees, those markers were very strategically placed and the result is a most fun layout that provides a diversion from the two long-established 18-holers.
“From a price structure it doesn’t matter,’’ said Beucher, “but players can switch from the long to the shorter tees as they go along.’’
The Beucher family has been the owner and operator of Mission Inn since 1964. The family built first hotel in 1970 and now the resort has 176 rooms, four restaurants, a conference center, a top-level tennis facility and a restored river yacht and marina on Lake Harris.